Memories of Simon (By Stuart Tangye)

Professor Stuart Tanye is Head of Immunology & Immunodeficiency at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. He is a life-long Hummingbirds fan whose friendship with Simon began when their daughters became friends at the local pool. 

Like many people around my age (45-50), I knew of Simon Holmes as an awesome guitarist, singer, intelligent and articulate songwriter and extraordinarily talented and inventive musician for that great Sydney band the Hummingbirds. First and foremost, I was a big fan of the band – I saw them play many times in and around Sydney from ~1989 through to one of their final gigs which was on the night of the 1993 election at the Annandale Hotel. I vividly recall driving up to Long Jetty one Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1991 to see them play. I would collect set lists, new releases, other merchandise. Studying at UTS, I would walk down to Waterfront, Phantom and RedEye record stores in Sydney to eagerly look for new or old vinyl (and then CDs). Often seeing people (and band members) in these shops that I would see at the gigs. For someone who didn’t really fit in to school or university cliques, i had finally found a space where I was comfortable and felt part of.

Fast forward 20+ years and i find myself at a local pool with my 3 kids having a splash around. My 5 year old daughter starts playing with a similarly aged, adorable little girl in the pool. I strike up a conversation with her Dad – we introduce ourselves. I have this feeling I’ve seen this guy before. When I ask his daughter if she has any siblings, she replies ever so sweetly “well I have a big brother Milo, but he’s much older than me”. My hunch is confirmed – recalling the Hummingbirds shows from the 90’s featuring Nic Dalton on bass while Robyn St Clare was pregnant, it was well known that Simon has a son named Milo. This was a surreal moment – here I was, chatting to the man who brought such entertainment, pleasure and appreciation of music when I was in my late teens/early 20’s. Swimming with our kids. A million miles from the rock and roll of the Sydney pub scene of the 80’s/90’s. We chatted about anything and everything – work, music, books, art, travel, science (me being a scientist). And our kids.

Over the next 12 months we would catch up in the local parks and at this same pool so our daughters could play together. Simon was such a lovely, loving, caring and gentle man – asking my children questions, indulging them with their comments, curiosities and observations and playing endless games of “Marco Polo” in the pool. We swapped stories of our daughters adventures at pre-school, the excitement of birthdays and birthday parties and the thrill and trepidation of starting kindergarten this year. He always expressed gratitude for these catch ups. His messages would include sentiments such as “Thanks for your time and attention – the pleasure is, as always, mine”. So thoughtful, gracious and considerate.

At times we would talk about music and of course the Hummingbirds and I would confess what a big fan I was. I got to see them one more time too when they played in Newtown last year. When Simon asked if I played music, I had to make another confession: I am great at music trivia, but have no musical talent whatsoever, despite desperately having wanted to learn guitar as a kid. He encouraged me to give it a go – “it’s never too late”. And of course he was right – for the past 8 months I’ve been learning guitar. I’m pretty crap, but I’m giving it a go and loving it. Simon inspired me to try something I never thought I would have the time or capability of doing at this age and stage of my life.

I didn’t know Simon for long. But my life, as well as that of my families, is enriched for having had him in our lives. To re-quote Simon “Thanks for your time and attention”. It was a real pleasure and very special time knowing you. We will miss him dearly. Rest in peace my friend.


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